JEFFERSON CITY — Following the statewide pattern, the unemployment rate of Parkland counties remained stable in March with only one county showing an increase and five others seeing their rates go down, according to figures released by the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
Analysts for the state agency said the stable jobless rate in March is still another indication that Missouri’s economic climate is on the upswing.
The unadjusted unemployment rate for Missouri in March was 5 percent, down from 5.2 percent in February. The state’s seasonally adjusted rate edged up slightly to 4.8 percent, but officials pointed out that is still a full percentage point below the rate for March of 2002.
“The major decline in our unemployment rate that we saw in January and February held steady in March,” said MDED director Joseph L. Driskill, “which is great news. This means Missouri is beginning to emerge from the national recession and that our economic climate is continuing to improve. It also mean that Missourians are getting employed at greater rates and keeping their jobs.”
It was pointed out by Driskill that Missouri’s unadjusted rate of 5 percent is well below the 6.2 percent unemployment rate reported for the nation in March.
Driskill’s optimism may not be shared by the 120 employees who were laid off earlier this month at the Little Tikes plant in Farmington. The company that manufactures playground equipment said it had to cut back due to slowed sales.
Observers pointed out that much of Little Tikes’ sales are to government entities such as schools and cities, which have experienced significant budget cuts over the past two years.
The loss of 120 jobs at the Farmington plant will not be reflected in the local jobless rate until the report that comes out one month from now. The report released Monday showed the unemployment rate for St. Francois County dropped from 6.9 percent in February to 6.7 percent in March. That is well below the 8 percent rate recorded in March of 2002.
With a total labor force of more than 23,000 people as reported in December, the loss of 120 jobs will have only a minor impact on the rate for St. Francois County. To those who lost their jobs, the impact is much more significant.
The drop in unemployment was much more significant in Washington and Ste. Genevieve counties, according to the latest report. The rate for Washington County dropped from 10.4 percent in February to 9.9 percent in March. It was at 11.4 percent in March of 2002 and had climbed back to 11.3 percent as recently as January.
The rate for Ste. Genevieve County went from 5.8 percent in February to 5.3 percent in March. It had climbed to 6.4 percent in March of 2002, a rate well above what that county generally experienced in the past few years.
Iron County experienced only a minor drop, with an 8.6 percent rate in February dropping to 8.5 percent in March. That is still well below the 9.9 percent jobless rate of March 2002.
Madison County was the only county in the Parkland region to show an increase in unemployment last month. The rate went from 8.1 percent in February to 8.4 percent in March. It had stood at 10 percent in March of 2002.
Though unemployment remained in double-digits, both Wayne and Reynolds counties showed significant drops in their rates in March.
At the state level, employment in March increased by less than the usual seasonal amount, officials said. Non-farm payroll employment increased by 10,900 jobs. Over the period of a year, the number of non-farm payroll jobs in Missouri decreased by 66,200 jobs, according to the report.